On November 8th and 9th, about 1,500 folks from the blogging industry descended on Las Vegas for the first annual "Blog World Expo." BricaBox was there as an exhibitor -- one of perhaps 50 -- and launched our platform there. The following are my thoughts on the conference and the time we had there: We're on our way back from Las Vegas -- at 30,000 with our friends at JetBlue, eating peanut-schwag provided by fellow exhibitors, the bloggers at Southwest Airlines -- and I'm just now able to reflect on the past two whirlwind days of launching BricaBox, meeting new people, and seeing the Las Vegas sights.
For Kyle and me, the conference started off on a fun note. On our way to the expo hall, the morning of our launch, we're ran into Wordpress founder Matt Mullenweg, lost as all could be, 5 minutes before he was going to give the keynote address. Now, we thought running into him on launch day was a good omen, considering our pitch is "blogs can't do everything;" anyway, as we escorted the king of blogs (including this one) to the expo hall, we told him about our plans to make a dent in the web publishing world. And according to Allen he may have listened: admitting in his keynote that blogging platforms have a long way to go.
On the exhibition floor, we set up shop next to AdaptiveBlue. This was a lot of fun, especially because Fraser and I had been corresponding for a few months, and it's always good to hang out with "internet friends" in real life. It was also nice to be next to friends because there was a lot of downtime on the expo floor. In fact, many of the exhibitors, including myself, noticed (and complained) that the majority of folks visiting booths were other exhibitors. While that leads to good networking and partnership opportunities (people love "integrating" with publishing platforms, it seems, so we had a lot of these types of visitors), expos are designed for consumer interactions, and there was a huge lack of them (probably due to the location of the event itself).
Outside of the expo hall, however, I had a lot of fun and made some great friends. Alex Hillman was in town, and on both nights we hanged out with him and Willo, of Willotoons (check out her shirts here!). I also found myself kicking it with Gabe Rivera a lot. I think our shared propensity to talk %&@$ about the blogging community -- at Blog World Expo, mind you -- provided much of the fuel for this friendship. As Jeremiah Owyang overheard Gabe telling me (in the context of his Twitter background, and with that one big wink he always seems to be talking to people with), he sees TechMeme at a lion "tearing the guts out of bloggers," including me, considering he put innonate "on notice" for possible purging from the TM index.
Another person I had fun hanging out with was Frank Gruber, from Somewhat Frank (Gabe calls it "Simply Frank" to -- very effectively -- piss him off). Frank and I tried to connect back in October, when our mutual friend Tracy Sheridan used the Introductions app on Facebook to connect us, while both traveling in San Francisco. Now in Vegas, we had time to hang out after the Weblogs Awards in the Hard Rock Cafe. In fact, it was Frank who seridipdously pulled me into the Full Access lounge, where I met Jeremiah (someone I have to write about later, but who's already expressed enthusiasm for BricaBox).
Also on the "Facebook me!" list were Gavin (last name?) and Alex Rudloff from emurse. At first I got to know them in their BlogSmith roles in the AOL booth. Then I partied up the strip with them. Finally, on the last day, we got to chat for a while in the conference hall. They have a ton of experience with startups and I really appreciated Alex's tips on building community early on. We also spoke a little about Charlie and Alex Lines' Path101, which the emurse fellas are "watching very closely," especially considering Fred Wilson's investment (who they like a lot from the Weblogs, Inc. days). Lastly, we talked about different tech scenes across the US. They're in Orlando, which is within spitting distance of a number of top engineering school, making it both cheap and easy to find excellent talent. However, their Tech Meetups haven't reached critical mass yet, like ours has, and they don't have their own gossipy/shit-stirring blogs, which is also a critical component of creating a viable tech scene, we agreed.
Todd Earwood is another dude I had great conversations with. I recognized him at The Conversation Group's party immediately, since he had posted my name on his blog and I had checked it out. With Todd, I remembered how much I have in common with, and get along with, folks from the tri-state-area (OH-KY-IN, not NYC). Todd and his partners are in Louisville, which is pretty close to my hometown of Cincinnati, and we talked about the merits of being a startup in the middle of America versus in NYC or the Valley (he and partner Rob May, of Business Pundit, write Outside the Valley). They've had to outsource their technical, and this is certainly one of my biggest fears of being anywhere but NYC or the Valley, because it's so valuable for me to be in the same room as Kyle and the folks we hire to work on BricaBox. Other folks I spent some QT with: Stephanie Agresta and Chis Heuer of The Conversation Group; Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer (also business partners with Todd and Rob); Damien from MindTouch; and many more, I'm sure.
In a nutshell, it's my take that the exhibitors were a bit shortchanged and nickel-and-dimed, but that going to the conference was overall a good decision for us, and that I will go back next year... hopefully as a speaker, since we do offer a unique perspective on the future of personal web publishing. Anyway, it's my suggestion that if conference staff wants to see any of the same exhibitors again, they should offer deep discounts in recognition of us propping up this first try. And also let me be clear: this first try was a success, even considering some headliners backed out. I just think that the people who propped it up should be recognized next year.
I would also suggest that Las Vegas is a bad place for this. A better populated city would draw the "real users" exhibitors are really looking for.